Sheffield United defender Phil Jagielka has not been surprised by the club’s encouraging start in the Premier League this season.
The Blades head to Jagielka’s former club Everton on Saturday after winning one and drawing two of their first five games and the former England centre-half is convinced Chris Wilder’s side can hold their own following promotion.
“When I first came in, the first few training sessions, I could see how good the squad was and how together it was,” said Jagielka, who spent 12 years in the top flight with the Toffees before returning to Bramall Lane in the summer.
“I was able to spend four or five days in Portugal and we had a few good sessions out there and obviously had a good game out there and it made me realise we do stand a good chance.”
Jagielka won promotion to the Premier League with the Blades under Neil Warnock in 2006 before sealing a £4million move to Everton after relegation the following season.
He went on to captain the Merseyside club, making over 350 appearances in all competitions, and won 40 caps for England between 2008 and 2016.
“Because we’ve not got massive household names who have played a lot of Premier League football and we didn’t spend a tremendous amount of money in the summer, people have knocked us,” he said.
“But in among the squad and the staff the belief has always been there and I think, when you’ve done what these lads have done over the last few years, you can’t do that without great determination and self-belief.”
Wilder guided the Blades from the bottom end of Sky Bet League One to the Premier League in three years and Jagielka feels they are still on an upward curve.
“It’s too easy to lose confidence in this division because you do play against some fantastic players week in, week out,” he said.
“But as it stands, as you can tell from the previous couple of years, the momentum is still there and that’s key for us at the moment.”
Jagielka is having to bide his time to force his way into Wilder’s starting line-up but will relish his return to Goodison Park.
“I’ve been very lucky to play for two amazing clubs,” he added. “Obviously 12 years at Everton and coming back here to sort of finish the cycle.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d made my last visit to Goodison as a player. Obviously this time it will be in the away dugout, but I’m hoping it will be a very special weekend.”
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